The EESC issues between 160 and 190 opinions and information reports a year.
It also organises several annual initiatives and events with a focus on civil society and citizens’ participation such as the Civil Society Prize, the Civil Society Days, the Your Europe, Your Say youth plenary and the ECI Day.
The EESC brings together representatives from all areas of organised civil society, who give their independent advice on EU policies and legislation. The EESC's326 Members are organised into three groups: Employers, Workers and Various Interests.
The EESC has six sections, specialising in concrete topics of relevance to the citizens of the European Union, ranging from social to economic affairs, energy, environment, external relations or the internal market.
The EESC advocates the creation of an integrated European fund to combat poverty and social exclusion, based on experience to date of the implementation of the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD) and the European Social Fund (ESF).
The intervention of such a fund should make full use of the experience and capacity of civil society organisations by granting them a leading role in programming, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
The EESC believes that the European Commission’s monitoring of the use of the ESF and the FEAD in the Member States should be more effective. Monitoring should closely involve civil society organisations and people experiencing poverty and social exclusion.
The EESC considers cooperation between the national bodies managing the funds and the partner organisations to be of key importance. The EESC suggests that the Commission consider a significant clarification of the minimum requirements for Member States to comply when implementing partnerships, and the provision of sanctions for inadequate implementation.
The EESC advocates strengthening the technical and organisational capacity of European networks of organisations working to combat poverty and social exclusion.
The EESC calls on the Member States to make greater use of global grants, regranting and treatment - where possible - of in-kind contributions on the same footing as financial contributions. The possibility should also be considered to require that a major part of resources made available under the operational programmes be earmarked for projects with smaller budgets. This would make it possible to support locally active organisations and self-help groups.
The EESC declares its readiness to set up a small ad hoc group composed of EESC members and relevant European level civil society platforms which would contribute to better coordination of ESF and FEAD interventions and to the discussion of the basic principles of a future integrated EU fund aimed at combating poverty and social exclusion. In this context, the EESC considers cooperation with the Committee of the Regions to be essential.
Tackling poverty and social exclusion in Europe is one of the Europe 2020 strategy's most important goals. However, European institutions seem to be less and less focused on this goal.
Civil society organisations, such as associations, foundations and social cooperatives, as well as trade unions and employers' organisations, have traditionally played an important role in tackling poverty and social exclusion. Thus they should be important partners and beneficiaries of the European funding tool kit, primarily the European Social Fund (ESF) and the Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD). While the FEAD is meant to help people take their first steps out of poverty and social exclusion, and to help ensure that their most basic needs are met so that they have a chance to find a job or participate in a training course, the ESF is supposed to promote additional measures, including labour market integration. However, in order to enhance the ESF's contribution to integration, 20% of 2014-2020 ESF funding is to be put directly towards tackling poverty and social exclusion.
Researchers and civil society organisations have been critical both of the overall feasibility of the Europe 2020 strategy's goals of tackling poverty and social exclusion given existing policy and financial instruments, and of how the ESF and FEAD are implemented in individual Member States. Given this context, the own-initiative opinion should make specific recommendations i.a. on cooperation, monitoring and transparency in this field.